Humanists UK has welcomed the UK Government today announcing proposals for a compulsory register to keep track of children being home-schooled in England, as a way to tackle the operation of illegal schools and better safeguard children. Humanists UK, which has led the campaign against illegal, unregistered schools, says a Government register of home-schooled students will make it harder for illegal schools to operate.
Humanists UK has been responsible for revealing the appalling plight of children trapped within illegal schools, both through its blogging and whistleblowing website Faith Schoolers Anonymous, and through various exposés with Newsnight, BBC News at Six/Ten, BBC London News, Victoria Derbyshire, the Independent, and the Evening Standard, among others. That work prompted the creation of Ofsted’s unregistered schools team, which Humanists UK was the first external group to meet. Humanists UK also organised the first meeting between Ofsted, the Government, and former pupils of illegal religious schools. And it assisted Hackney Council in carrying out its own inquiry into the matter.
But loopholes in the law mean that many such full-time institutions insist they are in fact part-time educational settings – which are unregulated – and the pupils attending them are, for the majority of their time, home-schooled. Home-schooling is also unregulated, so when confronted with such claims, there is very little that Ofsted can do.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘Illegal schools perpetuate some of the worst abuses in our society, with children forced to attend unsafe environments for long hours and frequently denied any education at all other than rote learning of religious texts. Many pupils leave such schools without even being able to speak English, unprepared for life in wider society, and there are also widespread concerns about physical abuse.
‘We have long been calling for a change in the law to enable illegal schools to be shut down, and this is a huge step forward in keeping children safe and ensuring they receive the education they are entitled to. These proposals are not about being against homeschooling in any way, shape, or form, but about preventing some people from abusing the lack of regulation of homeschooling to deny children any education at all.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3078.
Read more about our work on illegal schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/illegal-faith-schools/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.